The Pentacon Six System
The History of the Pentacon Six
The Pentacon Six TL
Dates: 1969-1990 (confirmed by
One of the first of the cameras with the name “Pentacon Six TL”.
An original Pentacon Six front plate has clearly been used, with the
“TL” subsequently added.
The Biometar lens on this example was part of a batch that was finished
on 1st April 1968
The only change to the camera was the name, which reflected
the availability from 1968 on of a TTL metering prism.
As can be seen above, the first examples of the Pentacon
Six TL use a standard Pentacon Six face plate, to which the letters “TL”
have been added below the name. Eventually (presumably once the stock
of those face plates had been exhausted!), a new face plate design was
used with the whole name in one line of text.
|Since the late 1940s, the key export market for East
German companies had been the United States of America, where the first
Contax S cameras had been sold for up to US$800, an extraordinarily high
price, especially considering that the first cameras arrived minus the
delayed-action mechanism and lever and that the first batches needed a
lot of care and attention (i.e., a significant proportion proved mechanically
unreliable). In the 1950s, KW’s Praktinas were also strongly promoted
in the USA.
Americans were extremely keen to get quality German cameras,
but had misgivings about buying from the Eastern Sector of Germany.
By the early 1950s, US government and import regulations required that
such equipment be re-labelled “Germany (USSR occupied)” or “Germany (Russian
By the 1960s, the former Soviet zone of Germany was calling
itself the “German Democratic Republic” or “GDR” (in German: “Deutsche
Democratische Republik” or “DDR”), and cameras and lenses were labelled
accordingly. But the Berlin wall had been erected by the communist
authorities on 13 August 1963, and relationships between communist countries
and the USA were extremely poor. The “GDR” had to find ways of getting
round American resistance to buying communist goods. In addition,
there was a long-running series of court battles in various countries over
the rights to use the name “Carl Zeiss” and lens names such as “Biometar”
and “Sonnar”. Eventually, the East Germans lost the right to use
these names in various countries, including the USA.
The manufacturers of the Pentacon Six and of Carl Zeiss
lenses sought to get round these problems in the easiest way possible.
The image on the right shows the same camera as the one illustrated at
the top of this page.
Pentacon Six TL prepared for export to the USA
Hiding the words “Carl Zeiss” and “Biometar” and the country name “DDR”:
a new lens name ring is screwed into the lens – on top of the original
ring! The original lens ring says “1Q Biometar 2.8/80 [Serial number]
Carl Zeiss Jena” and probably included the designation “DDR”, which was
added to most Carl Zeiss Jena lenses. The new lens ring says “1Q
Bm 1:2.8 f - 80 [Serial number] aus Jena”
Both the lens and the camera are labelled “MADE IN GERMANY (EAST)”.
The two flash sockets can be seen under the camera throat, “X” on the left
and “FP” on the right.
|Labelling of lenses and bodies for export to the USA
and some other countries in the late 1960s.
However, even all this subterfuge was not enough to overcome
resistance to a camera that was known to come from communist East Germany,
and so a new version of the camera was born, or at least, a new name for
it. (See next page.)
Enlargements from the lens and the camera baseplate in the above photograph
They also added a feature that had been possible for all
models since the design of the the Praktisix, but never incorporated until
this point: separate “X” and “FP” flash sockets (for electronic flashguns
and Focal Plane flash bulbs, respectively), as FP flashguns continued to
be very popular in the USA.
The slightly later Pentacon Six TL shown here has the
new-style face plate. It, too, has been prepared for export to a
country where the name “Carl Zeiss” cannot be used, as can be seen from
the name ring on the lens.
This picture supplied to me in 1981 by the factory shows
a 1960s camera with larger lettering on the camera face plate.
The uncommon lens style with “bumps” on the focussing
ring can also be seen on this image,
and an export ring has been added to the lens,
perhaps so that the picture could be used in certain
In the subsequent decades, there was no further technological
development of the camera, and only cosmetic changes can be observed.
Thus from about 1972 the lens breech-lock ring on the body was black.
This picture, which was also supplied to me by the factory
in 1981, was labelled “Heutige Ausführung”, which, roughly translated,
means “Current Version”.
The lens on this camera was part of a batch of Biometars
that were completed on 11th October 1975.
Naturally, the metering prism is shown fitted to this
Shutter Release Button
||From about 1987 the concentric circles on the shutter
release button that had been seen on this button since the Praktisix was
first introduced in 1956/57 disappeared. In German, this smooth version
is referred to as “Glattknopf”. The Exakta 66 (1980s-on version)
also had a smooth shutter release button, no doubt produced by Pentacon,
and I wonder if when sales of the Exakta 66 did not reach the hoped-for
levels the Pentacon factory found itself with a surplus of such buttons
and decided to use them on its own cameras. (Of course, the button
was anodized black during the subsequent manufacturing process for the
Since the introduction of the Praktisix, the circular
base plate round the tripod screw socket had had a disk of black leatherette.
At the same time that the shutter release button ceased to have its concentric
rings, this piece of leatherette was no longer applied. Compare with
the base of the camera illustrated higher up on this page.
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21 The Hanimex Praktica 66
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© TRA August 2010